Law Firm Innovation with Nick Rishwain (Part 2)
Last week, we shared the first part of our interview with legal tech advocate Nick Rishwain and discussed the importance of innovation and how law firms can be innovative in small ways. He also shared his insights on legal technology, how it contributes to law firm innovation and why lawyers should use it.
This week, Nick tells dealcloser what he thinks about legal technology in the legal market. He also talked about one of the big reasons why law firms are slow in adopting legal technology, which is the billable hour. Here’s the second part of our interview.
DEALCLOSER: We love asking this question because each lawyer has a different answer: in your opinion, what do you think is the reason why lawyers are slow in adopting legal technology?
NICK RISHWAIN: We’ve had this issue from our experience too and I think it comes down to awareness. Oftentimes, lawyers are so busy working on their billable hours that they find it difficult to take time out to look at a new web application that may save their time in the future. Especially if they are in the position where they are required to bill a certain number of hours a year, then it makes it difficult for them to look at new technologies. But I don’t think that’s the only answer to that. I think that for many years, we’ve blamed the lawyers for being slow to adopt and I’m not sure if that’s the only answer. I think part of the blame is on those of us who are either creating, developing or trying to implement a legal technology. If it is not built into an attorney’s workflow, then it’s not really making their job easier. If it’s not easily accessible, if they have to take a full day of training on the technology, it’s gonna sit on the shelf. It needs to be easily accessible, easy to use, and available in their workflow or else, it’s not really making their jobs easier. Even if the application itself is spectacular but it’s not really doing the job of making their lives easier, then it’s not really helping them. I think some of the fallback has something to do with the legal tech industry, we can’t just blame the lawyers for being slow to adopt. We’ve established that over many years but they are opening their eyes now.
DC: Do lawyers think that legal technology affects their billable hours in a negative way?
NR: It depends on who are you talking too. If you’re talking to a lawyer who is fully dependent on billing a certain number of hours a year, I don’t think that’s going to excite them. If it is removing some routine part of their job that they absolutely hate so that they can do more of something that is truly productive and possibly even creative, then the technology is probably valuable - if it’s not reducing their billable hours, especially for those lawyers who are specifically completing like for example 2000 billable hours a year. I think there is going to be some pushback by that. It’s going to impact probably some junior associates if you implement a technology that is more effective. It’s almost like a built-in inefficiency so there’s not a real desire to change if you have to make so many hours in a year. But if they can still complete their billable hours without having to undertake hours of less enjoyable tasks because there is a better way of doing those tasks, I think that is a very good thing. The other aspect is from a customer relationship standpoint: if you are doing less hours of work or work at a lower rate, such that it’s more cost effective for your customers, those customers will be returning customers. Or maybe you can take on more clients than before because you used to be too busy spending hours on those routine and mundane tasks.
DC: Is innovation enough for law firms to stand out from their competition?
NR: I don’t think innovation on it’s own is enough to stand out. I think you need to look at the business as a whole and look at what the customer needs, and make sure you’re addressing the customers’ needs and the customer experience. I think all of that plays a role. Service delivery and communication is particularly important. Are you communicating with your clients when they want to communicate with you? Are you communicating with your clients using the method they prefer, whether that’s through an online portal or via email or phone? I think it’s an entire service delivery issue, I don’t think innovation alone makes you stand out, I think it’s the way you deliver yourself to your clients. That’s probably the way you stand out.
**Nick Rishwain is the VP of Client Relations and Development at Experts.com (often referred as Legal Tech 1.0), a marketing platform for expert witnesses and consultants. He is also the co-Creator of Legal Tech Live where he gets to interview people who are in the legaltech space and legaltech startups.